30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Monday, July 13, 2015

Diamond Diplomat

I have met my fair share of athletes over the past two decades, but none of them ever made me nervous.  Actually... I'm not really sure if "nervous" is the right word, but my hands were literally shaking with excitement.  Yeah... "excited" is a better word for how I felt.

After waiting several months, this past Saturday I finally had the opportunity to meet the first Japanese born player to play in the MLB:  Mr. Masanori Murakami.

They were having their book signing at two different locations on Saturday.  The first one was at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Public Library on the San Jose State University campus.  They also went to Nikkei Traditions located in San Jose's Japantown, which coincided with this year's Obon Festival.

I decided to attend the early book signing to avoid the huge crowds and parking issues that I knew would be a problem at the festival.  My decision paid off, because I found out that the library presentation would be the last one on the tour... and that he'd only be signing books in Japantown.

The presentation started off with a preview of an upcoming documentary called Diamond Diplomacy.  The movie covers the history of baseball in the United States and Japan, while focusing in on the relationship between the two countries.

The film is being directed and produced by Yuriko Gamo Romer, who founded the San Francisco based production companyFlying Carp Productions.

After the movie previewMr. Fitts began talking about the book about Mr. Murakami's amazing life.  Every now and then, he'd pause and allow Mr. Murakami to tell personal accounts of his life.  The duo kept the audience entertained with interesting and comical tales from Mashi's childhood and career.

When the presentation was over, we all lined up for the book signing.  People who attended could purchase copies of the book for $25 and have them signed by both Mr. Fitts and Mr. Murakami.

In addition the the books, you could also purchase custom made Turkey Red cabinet cards featuring Mr. Murakami for $25 (includes a free autograph).

Back in MarchBrady over at St. Louis Cardinals' Cardboard told me about a Kickstarter campaign to help fund Mr. Murakami's book signing tour in the United States.  I donated on two different occasions.

The first time, I donated $100 and received a copy of the bookTurkey Red cabinet card, and a standard sized custom Murakami card.

The second time around, I donated $75 and received an official MLB baseball that I had him sign.

Mr. Murakami also signed additional autographs for $25 each.  Fans brought a bunch of cool items, including a San Francisco Giants legends batseveral Murakami SGA statues, and at least one Murakami SGA bobblehead.

One guy even spent $200 to have his complete set of 2002 Topps East Meets West cards signed.

I purchased an extra copy of the book for my friend and spent an extra $50 to have Mr. Murakami sign a game model hat for my collection:

Plus he signed his 1965 Topps rookie card for me:

I wanted to hang out and talk to both of them, but the line was long so I walked back to my car and dropped off my stuff.

When I got back, I noticed that Mr. Murakami was signing his name in kanji for some fans.  I had originally wanted him to sign the baseball in kanji, but was too embarrassed to ask.  But after I saw other people asking, I jumped back in line and purchased another Turkey Red cabinet card:

I hung out until pretty much everyone left and actually had the opportunity to see Mr. Murakami sign a copy of the book for Mr. Fitts:

I was also lucky enough to have my picture taken with both of these gentlemen:

When the dust finally settled, I had spent $275 for eight signed items.  Mr. Fitts had mentioned that some of the autograph seekers were a bit obnoxious and disrespectful to Mr. Murakami.  I hope that I didn't come across that way.

In case anyone is wondering... I have no intentions of flipping any of these signatures.  Seven of the autographs were for my own personal Masanori Murakami collection, while the extra book is going to my best friend.

Thank you BradyMrs. RomerMr. Fitts, and Mr. Murakami for all playing a role in this once in a lifetime experience.  There's not a doubt in my mind that I'll be reminiscing about this event in numerous future posts.

Happy Monday and sayonara!


  1. Terrific tribute to a historical figure. Glad you had such an enjoyable experience.

  2. I know what you mean when you said you were nervous. My hands were shaking when it was my turn to get his autograph and a photograph with him. One peculiar thing is that I don't quite remember the event hosted here in NYC having those Turkey Reds or customs available. And our books cost around $32 (darn NYC tax!). That said I guess I was either really lucky that Murakami signed my copy of his '65 RC for no extra charge or I was dumb and didn't know I was supposed to buy another book or donate. Either way, I really hope that I wasn't one of the obnoxious and disrespectful autograph seekers Mr. Fitts was talking about.

    DOH, there I go making it all about me again. Sorry. Glad you were able to meet Murakami-san and have a such a great/important time Fuji.

  3. Great post, Fuji! That's terrific. I was hoping he'd extend his tour a bit to get closer to Houston. I got signed items thru the program but to meet him would have been so much better.

  4. Awesome post. Looks like a very memorable experience. I love the way that signed hat came out. What a special piece for your collection.

  5. That sounds like a great event! I'm looking forward to that documentary. I love those custom cards too Rob made!

  6. And that's a great SJ Asahi shirt you've got on. You know they beat the Tokyo Giants right here in San Jose 80 years ago this year.

  7. If you're worried about being seen as one of the obnoxious / disrespectful folks (although I have my doubts that those comments were directed at you), maybe find a good e-mail address for whoever was responsible for running the event and send a thank-you note. Maybe even send a link to this post along with it. Whenever I get a sketch done at a convention by an artist or pick up a sketch card or custom-made piece for my collection, I try to track down the person and thank them for it. It's worked out well for me so far.

  8. I'm a long time friend of Rob Fitts and I happen to work in the library where the event took place. Rob contacted me and I put him in touch with the events coordinator. So Rob would be the one to thank, and he's well aware of Fuji-san's gratitude because he shared this blog on his FB page.

  9. What a special time I am so glad you could go-a true pioneer-the word that is often over used in this case is exactly that-the first. I am happy for you-and I have to say the Cards are of the chart cool.

  10. Night Owl - Thank you Greg. Coming from the best... those words mean a lot.

    Zippy - I'm glad both of us had the opportunity to meet someone of that much historical importance. As crazy as it sounds... the photograph is the thing I'll cherish the most in 20 years. As for making it about you... I say go for it. I love hearing peoples' experiences.

    Commish - I'm glad you were able to at least get your items signed. Btw... I'm always jealous of the huge TriStar show out in Houston each year.

    TLC - Thanks. Outside of the Turkey Red card he signed in kanji, the hat is my favorite autographed item. But one of the coolest things he signed was this bobble head. On one leg... he signed in English and on the other he signed his name in kanji. It was very, very cool.

    Ryan G - Yeah, I'm totally looking forward to it too. It has some really cool baseball footage.

    Ralph - Thanks for the heads up. I found a post put out by the San Jose Public Library on the story. Very interesting read.

    Raz - I have a feeling he was talking about some guys from the previous signing. Towards the end of the signing, there were a handful of us hanging out talking to Mr. Fitts and Mr. Murakami. I didn't really get the feeling that we were one of those I obnoxious collectors he mentioned earlier. On a side note, I don't want to make it sound like Mr. Fitts was being overly harsh on these collectors either. He was just defending Mr. Murakami from sitting there and signing twenty photos that were going to be thrown up on eBay the next day for a profit.

    Brady - No thank you buddy. Without your heads up, I wouldn't have been there.

    Dean - Thanks!

  11. Sounds like an amazing day. You added some great pieces to your collection

  12. Great recap and some really cool autographed items!

  13. Glad you got to meet Mashi. I was part of that kickstarter too. Still waiting for my autos. Too bad he couldn't make it down to San Diego. Didn't feel like driving up to LA during a weekday. The traffic would've been atrocious.

  14. Mark & Daniel - Thanks! It was really cool to finally meet him. The past few months, I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas to arrive.

    Junichi - I don't blame you. Traffic in certain parts of California is crazy. It took me almost an hour to get from San Jose to Oakland on a Saturday afternoon. Hope those autographs arrived safely.

  15. Hi,
    Great post and great site. I have been reading your blog for quite a while now and I always find it entertaining! I also attended the San Jose library signing and I believe I am the one who you were referring to when you said somebody brought the SF Giants legends bat as I have one signed by over 30 Giants! I also spent almost $200 between the San Jose and San Francisco Library appearances. Both times were great and informative. Keep up the awesome blog!

    1. Thanks for supporting the blog. That bat of yours was awesome. There's so many signatures. It was funny watching Mr. Murakami search for an empty spot on the bat.